August 18, 2005
CIN, MIL, SEACincinnati Reds: Aaron Harang was traded to the National League at the July trade deadline two years ago. Prior to that he'd only stepped up to the plate four times with Oakland--all four ended with strikeouts.
From the mound, Harang has grown into the Reds' best pitcher, by no small margin; currently he's floating around his 90th percentile PECOTA forecast. All his rate stats (H/9 innings, HR/9, BB/9, SO/9) have crept forward, and thus his ERA (3.96) has improved by over a run from his previous career mark.
The problem is, Harang's rotten bat cancels out almost a quarter of the value he brings as a pitcher. From the mound, a 28.6 VORP, tops on the team. From the plate, a -6.3 VORP ranks last among all major league pitchers. In fact, with exactly one total base and zero walks in 58 plate appearances, Harang's slump is historically hacktastic:
Lowest OPS by a pitcher in a season with 50+ AB (120 OPS or lower) since 1972:
YEAR NAME PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ----- -------------------- ---- ---- ------ ------ ------ ------ 2005 Aaron Harang 58 56 .018 .018 .018 .036 2004 Doug Davis 71 64 .016 .031 .016 .046 2003 Mark Redman 66 61 .016 .032 .016 .049 2003 Al Leiter 60 53 .019 .055 .019 .073 1988 Don Carman 71 63 .048 .048 .048 .095 1973 Ross Grimsley 86 79 .051 .051 .051 .101 1990 Oil Can Boyd 71 59 .051 .051 .051 .102 1983 Mike Torrez 74 65 .046 .061 .046 .107 1993 Charlie Hough 70 63 .032 .076 .032 .108 1984 Ed Whitson 68 61 .049 .065 .049 .114 1996 Mark Clark 81 69 .043 .056 .058 .114 1972 Bill Hands 66 57 .018 .097 .018 .114 2004 Brad Penny 52 51 .059 .059 .059 .118 2005 Chris Carpenter 67 56 .036 .083 .036 .119 1996 Bob Tewksbury 76 65 .031 .074 .046 .120To boot, Harang's little funk includes a current 0-for-47 skid. He strikes out more than Russ Branyan and walks less than Jeff Francoeur.
Analogies were recently removed from SAT tests, but let's brush up on our logic skills anyway. Ready…set…go!
AARON HARANG : LETTING PITCHERS HIT ::
(a) BMX biking : passing a kidney stone
While (b) is a tempting option, the correct answer is (c). In both (b) and (c), the former is an unfortunate side effect of the latter; however, Pat Buchanan's banter is an unavoidable byproduct of the First Amendment, while a cow might be used for milk or domesticated by a vegetarian. Similarly, the National League style of play in and of itself is not a bad thing, but the ugly fallout of Aaron Harang swinging a bat is avoidable. Either trade him back to the American League, or jump in a time machine, dial Billy Beane's cell and tell Billy NO--that you'd rather listen to Jose Guillen flap his jaw for two years as your disgruntled fifth outfielder than ever, ever permitting Harang to pick up another piece of lumber.
Quickly moving to the "Baseball Trivia" portion of the SAT's, which team has wrung the most offensive value from their catchers this year? If you guessed the Reds, you're cheating because you're reading about the Reds, but you win a dog biscuit for Schottzie anyway:
Combined VORP For Catchers, Top 10 Teams
Rank Team VORP ----- ------ ------- 1 CIN 44.4 2 BOS 39.1 3 CLE 29.2 4 MIN 29.2 5 CHC 28.7 6 NYN 26.6 7 FLO 24.8 8 SDN 22.9 9 WAS 22.0 10 BAL 21.8Jason LaRue is approaching his 90th percentile PECOTA mark, thanks to increased plate patience and some luck--35 percent of the balls he puts in play are falling for hits. And recently the similarities between Javier Valentin and Jason Varitek are compelling: both are switch hitters, they're hitting at about the same clip, and according to sources, Javier Valentin is actually Spanish for Jason Varitek. Valentin's season is surprising in the Greg Myers-Bob Brenly-Alan Ashby sort of way.
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG VORP FRAR FRAA LaRue 308 260 71 20 0 10 30 76 .273 .374 .465 24.6 15 1 Valentin 166 142 41 9 0 10 22 25 .289 .384 .563 20.5 5 -2Considering the dual firepower from behind the plate, Harang's futility with the stick, and the overcrowding that perpetually benches either Wily Mo Pena or Austin Kearns, there may not be a team in the National League that would benefit from the designated hitter more than the Cincinnati Reds.
Milwaukee Brewers: The 2005 Brew Crew will finish out of the cellar in the NL Central for the first time in four years, and at 58-62 through Tuesday's action, Milwaukee is on pace to collect 78 wins, 11 more than last year and the highest team total since 1997. Let's check in to see how some of Doug Melvin's moves as general manager have locked the Brewers into a steady ascent towards their first winning season since 1992:
Seattle Mariners: Recently, we have been focused on the ascension of Felix Hernandez. So far, it's good to be the King, but it's not good to be any other Mariners pitcher. Looking at the VORP for Pitchers report, we see that the Mariners' best pitcher, Jamie Moyer, ranked a lowly 70th entering Tuesday's action. Only the Pirates, Royals, and Rockies had worse top ranking pitchers. To make matters worse, the A's and Angels have 7 and 5 pitchers who rank ahead of Moyer, respectively. This might look a little different had the Mariners been able to utilize Eddie Guardado a bit more often. And therein lies the problem.
While pitching has been a problem for the 2005 M's, it has not been catastrophic, and having Hernandez up with the big boys should help. The real failing has been the offense, which in terms of AEqR ranks a paltry 24th in the majors. The off-season activity signaled the front office's faith in their two key acquisitions, Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre, to lead the offensive charge. How have these acquisitions worked out? Well, as Smooth Jimmy Apollo would say, "when you're right 52 percent of the time, you're wrong 48 percent of the time". Beltre is simply not holding up his end of the bargain, which was foreseen by Emperor Joe Sheehan mere hours after Beltre became Nintendo of America employee #5.
Beltre made contact a lot more often in 2004, and luckily for him those balls seemed to find the grass or the stands more than they found a glove. His K/PA rate was at its lowest, .132, in 2004. This year it's back up to .164, and as a result, not only is Beltre's batting average suffering but he also stands a good shot at topping his career high for strikeouts in one season (105).
Beltre's speed has disappeared in 2005 as well. He has only two steals, fewer than the man with no knees, Preston Wilson. Now, this by itself isn't troubling. For example, if Beltre has 37 homers like Andruw Jones instead of his current 15, no one would care that he only had two steals. And while steals do not paint the full picture, looking at Beltre's Speed Scores we can see the decline is real:
Year(s) Speed Score 1998-2004 5.094 2005 4.204Looking at the five factors the largest difference is in Beltre's SpS1 score, which is based on stolen base %. There may be sample size issues there, but that is sort of an indictment in and of itself. Beltre has had 87 opportunities to swipe a bag this year, and has only run twice.
The silver lining lies in Beltre's defense. Looking at the Mariner DT card team page, we can see that Beltre ranks second on the squad using either FRAR or FRAA. On the strength of this defense, Beltre does have a shot at being a 5 win player this year. But so what?
Calculating Beltre's Marginal Revenue Product (MRP), we see that his current 3.4 WARP1 total equals $7.28 million in value, and if he does indeed finish as a five win player, the M's still will not be getting the best bang for their buck. Beltre's average annual value equals $12.8 million, and it is unlikely he will be worth that much in 2005. To make matters worse, it was generally perceived that the M's got a bargain because they jumped on the Beltre bandwagon so quickly. When viewed in that light, Beltre's contract makes him an even bigger albatross, or Moose to be more specific. With inexpensive options elsewhere on the diamond and a little creativity, things could be okay. Unfortunately for Emerald City inhabitants, okay probably will not be good enough; the deflector shields to a Mariners contender have remained quite operational, and a legion of the AL West's best troops have awaited the Mariners throughout 2005.